A Graveyard Grabber of Grub

Hello! I’m Jimmy, and for the next six months, I’m running the SGSAH blog. I’m really excited to try some new things, and pretty nervous to fill Lizzie’s shoes.

I’m a first-year PhD researcher at the University of Stirling, looking at Gaelic and Welsh gravestones as a comparitive study of Celtic language funerary traditions (I know, niche, right?). A large part of my research will involve fieldwork in the Western Isles, and for that part I’m learning Gaelic. More about that later. One of my greatest passions is minority language awareness and, as it’s the Year of Indigenous Languages, brace yourselves for some posts in funny languages!

For now, I’ll just do a brief intro post on how my first year’s gone so far. To understand why I’ve loved it, you need to understand one thing.

I love free food.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that, and seeing as this is my first SGSAH blog post, I reckon it’s something you need to know right off the bat. I live in my kitchen, and when I’m at a do at someone else’s house, I live in their kitchen, soaking up cookery tips and recipes. If there’s one of those weird taste testing events for new snackfoods that totally looks like you’re going to be kidnapped, I’m there.

Year One of my PhD involved a great deal of free food.

Most of what I did over the first couple of months of my PhD was meeting other new PhD students and finding links with their research to chat about. It’s so important to feel interesting, to feel your research is something worth pursuing, and to make others feel the same way.

There have been induction events, training seminars, conferences, presentations, and even the odd trip to the pub to get to know staff and students in my own, and other, universities. It’s really useful stuff. Having a big network of people to talk to about the various challenges of a PhD right from the start is seriously helpful, especially if you’re a bit of an anxious type (like me). Pro-tip1: take tupperware to all events. Even your supervisors do it, so just go for it!

But there were also snacks.

The first month of the doctorate was the best fed I’ve been in a long while. Undergrad me would have wept with joy at the number of wraps I’ve eaten. In the first week of my PhD I attended two departmental welcome events. There were hors d’oeuvres and wine. It definitely made getting to know my supervisors, department head, lecturers and fellow PGRs feel much friendlier. Also, pro tip 2: double-layer your napkins for doggie bagging if you forgot pro-tip 1.

Then there were the SGSAH events. There was plenty of information on the various support and training opportunities available to us. But there were also these amazing little feta cheese things. And some more free wine. There were informative, slightly daunting (she organised a conference by herself?!) presentations from other SGSAH PGRs. Then chats with them, where we learnt that yes, they were having panic attacks and needed constant reassurance they weren’t faking/failing as well. And yes, they did have chronic illnesses and pre-existing mental health conditions as well. Good good. The sandwiches were magnificent (the lack of tea and pudding wasn’t as great, but I was full anyway).

“I hope it’s all this well catered!” one of my fellow Stirling PGRs quipped. Oh, how we laughed!

Then I realised something. Keeping people well fed is a genuinely good way to keep them happy during a PhD. When we’re happy we soak up information, we chat, we network, and we enjoy it all no matter how many hours or days of it we’ve already done. We might even apply for a job or a training course or two if we’re enjoying the feta nibbles enough.

Starting a PhD is tough. But so far what has helped the transition most has been having people around me. People in the same boat; people who have been there and are willing to talk; people with advice.

People with lots of free food.

We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog please get in touch with Jimmy via email at james.johnson@stir.ac.uk or connect with the blog on Twitter

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